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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Ira Winderman

Paul Pierce still hating on Heat, says with Lillard the team 'won’t make it out of the first round’

Paul Pierce ripping the Miami Heat is nothing new.

When you get the green blood boiling from the former Boston Celtics standout, you never know what he might say about the team he seemingly loathes like no other, a stance he made known during his stint as an ESPN analyst and now in his role with Showtime Basketball.

So when it came to a podcast roundtable with broadcaster Rachel Nichols and fellow former All-Star Tracy McGrady, Pierce scoffed at the notion of a potential trade for Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard making the Heat a team to beat.

Instead, Pierce pointed to the Heat’s free-agency losses of Gabe Vincent and Max Strus, the team’s unexpected run to last season’s NBA Finals, even the retirement of 43-year-old Heat captain Udonis Haslem.

It was a roundtable that left Nichols and McGrady speechless, with Pierce as defiant as when his Celtics and Brooklyn Nets lost to the Heat’s Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh a decade ago.

Then again, Pierce was among those at TD Garden in May when the Heat stunned the Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.

So as the Heat and the NBA wait to see if the Heat can pull off a deal for Lillard, who has stated a desire to be traded to the Heat to form a partnership with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, Pierce took his contrarianism to a new level.

Along the way, Pierce ran through a litany of Heat players, from Caleb Martin to ... Anthony. (The Heat do not and did not have a player named Anthony.)

McGrady: “I know they’re going to have the right pieces around him. They’re going to have that. But those three together?!”

Pierce: “You put them together, they won’t make it out of the first round.”

Nichols: “What? Wait.”

Pierce: “You don’t understand how they got to the championship this year. A lot of this happened through, I think, depth. A lot of this had to go with guys playing way above their pay grade. Way. Caleb. Anthony. These guys were averaging 20 points on Boston. We ain’t never seen them do that. Then you had Duncan Robinson. So if you get Dame, they done. They’re already gone. But then you lose another 18 points, 20 scorer — you might have to throw in Robinson, you’re going to have to gut that team out.”

Nichols: “You don’t think they’re going to get out of the first round?”

Pierce: “They lose Vincent, Strus. Strus, Strus, Strus. Think about it: What does Strus do? He shoots. Vincent, 20. Caleb, 20, a night versus the Celtics. Duncan Robinson.”

McGrady: “Duncan Robinson wasn’t doing (expletive).”

Pierce: “He was killing.”

McGrady: “Man.”

Pierce: “I couldn’t believe these guys.”

McGrady: “In the first couple of series, Duncan Robinson didn’t even play.”

Pierce: “Listen, Miami was a play-in team. You forgot that.”

McGrady: “No, I didn’t forget that.”

Pierce: “They was a play-in.”

McGrady: “But they made it to the championship.”

Pierce: “If you just add Dame, this team won’t make it out of the first round with those three with no depth.”

McGrady: “They’re going to have depth.”

Pierce: “How?”

McGrady: “Bro, one thing Miami is always going to have is some depth. Guys you ain’t heard of, the guys that they had that stepped up this year.”

Pierce: “Vincent’s gone. Strus is gone. You ain’t gonna keep five G League cats.”

Nichols: “But that’s what they do, masters of the salary cap, no one does it like that team.”

McGrady: “Paul, they always do this, bro.”

Pierce: “No, San Antonio always does that. But this was luck.”

McGrady: “You tell me how many times Miami has been to the Finals.”

Nichols: “Over the past 15 years, they’ve only missed the playoffs three times. They made the Eastern Conference finals over and over again.”

Pierce: “They should have missed it this year.”

Nichols: “But they didn’t, and look what happened, they were in the NBA Finals.”

Pierce: “Everything went right.”

McGrady: “Two of the last four years.”

Nichols: “And no one is better at playing with sort of the different assets and putting guys in position to win than Erik Spoelstra right now. To me, I think that he’s the best at adjusting.”

Pierce: “You lose UD’s leadership on the sideline. If you add that team and gut that team by getting Dame, they borderline might not make it to the playoffs or out of the first round.”

McGrady: “That’s crazy.”

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